Last night, the enshrinement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class took place. While I will admit I missed some of the older gentlemen, I took the time to witness the speeches of players that I have witnessed play, more so towards the end of their careers, but I was humbled to listen. Urlacher, Dawkins, Moss, and Lewis. All brought something completely different to the table, but it was amazing nonetheless. And I would like to show more appreciation here for each man individually, as each one touched me in different ways. So, let me start with Urlacher.
While Brian Urlacher didn’t bring the best speech of the pack, he brought so much thought and the exact type of character we always knew Urlacher had. The 2005 AP Defensive Player of the Year displayed the leadership, likability, and all-round emotion that anyone would expect out of Urlacher. He went out of his way to thank his teammates from every single season like the forms of Tillman, Briggs, and many others. He got teary eyed a few times, thanking his family, and finishing off his speech by saying all he wants to be remembered as was a good teammate who did all he could to back his team up and be there for him. Urlacher is the definition of the old time Middle Linebacker. Next up, Brian Dawkins.
Out of these four, Dawkins had the speech I was least looking forward to, more so because I never really got to seem him play much. Yet, what he brought to his speech was so powerful that I did not know how to react. I clapped, I gasped, and at times I just sat and listened deeply. Dawkins brought up how pain made him who he was, how pain drove him to the edge of his life where he did not want to be alive any longer. He considered ways to take his own life, leaving his money to his wife, but then he turned a corner in his speech. He said how his faith, his friends, and most importantly his family brought him in, especially his wife, to communicate and help him come back from such a hard time in his life. Dawkins, the five-time First Team All-Pro, gave a powerful speech, involving his family and how he was always told that he was too small, not strong enough, would never make it to the NFL. Well guess what, he defied the odds, changed the way people look at certain players, and even if he hit as hard as possible and bruised himself up, Dawkins was still able to lay down such an inspiring speech, bringing the Eagles’ Nation to their feet. Dawkins can now find himself enshrined in Canton, and thankfully he has surpassed his demons, set for his next chapter in life. Now, Randy being Randy.
Randy Moss is simply the greatest WR I have ever watched play the game of football. The ability he shows to go up and get a ball or say see ya to the defender and take off. Moss started his speech discussing his faith, and how without it, there is no way a guy like him who experience the life like he has gets to the point he is now. Moss acknowledged that he ended his career because he “wanted to come home for his kids”. The second all-time receiver in pretty much every receiving record in the book went out of his way to acknowledge his family early and often. And then he gets to talking about his roots, bring up the “30 for 30” in which was centered around him and about those difficult roots that found him in so much trouble. Randy had such a life and such a career. At times it seemed as though no one wanted to take a chance on the troubled kid from Rand, West Virginia. He acknowledges the Vikings for taking these chances on him, and why it meant so much for him. He singles out the Kraft family as well, for avoiding the noise that he is “trouble” and just let him prove to them he was worth it. And to wrap up his speech, it was simply awesome. He singles out Bill Belichick, who coached him for just three and a half seasons. He stated how he was a friend for him and how much it meant. How he was there for him when it wasn’t about football, how he believed in him and it meant the most. Randy was just being Randy, and his speech was shorter than the rest, but was so powerful and wonderful to hear. And while it was powerful, it just wasn’t Ray’s.
Ray Lewis did something no other inductee has done before. The two-time defensive player of the year and two-time Super Bowl Champion took the stage, not just as an inductee, but as the leader everyone has known him from. Having the portable mic attached to his head, Ray Lewis went to work. The greatest Middle Linebacker in the history of football focused on faith, his past, his family, and his fans. He used humor at times, bringing forward instances in his life that were difficult, his darkest, and his brightest. The Lewis you saw on the football field was in full form last night, discussing how he was doubted along with his young mother that he would never make it. How people never thought he could simply do it. He brought forward his University of Miami days and how he was the last to get a scholarship when it came down to it. Lewis is such an inspirational guy, and all the words he said made me want to run through a wall (in a good way). He is such a powerful speaker, and many times he discussed Martin Luther King and how he wanted to not be there for the completion, but just be able to spark the hope. But what hit me most about what Lewis said was him looking to his new family of Hall of Fame brothers, looking for unity in this country, and becoming legends together that are further than football. And what he looked to in this situation was simply, “love”. Everything Lewis said made so much sense. Ray Lewis wants all the pain to end. He no longer wants to see children being hurt, this country being hurt, or anyone else experiencing pain. Lewis made this speech not about him at the ends but wants unity more than anything. Lewis was absolutely incredible last night, along with the rest of the class, and the difference maker who does things a little differently truly made it his own. I have never heard a more powerful speech in the world of sports. This hit me harder than ever and i truly admire him.
The 2018 Class was everything a football fan could wish for. A night of stories, faith, truth, and truly incredible heart and words. It was the best class I have ever listened to in any sport. Maybe it was because of the uniqueness of stories that were told, the players who were inducted, and the fact that it became more than just a hall of fame speech.
If you missed it, make sure you at least go out of your way to witness the powerful words of them all. And if not, catch the last ten minutes of what Ray had to say.
– Scott Edwards, Creator of WTF Sports